West Africa

West Africa

West Africa is a culturally diverse region of Africa, located in the westernmost part of the continent of Africa. Burkina Faso is located in west Africa and is home to 15.7 million people. In Burkina Faso alone there are more than 50 ethnic groups, each with its own social and cultural distinctions.

Burkina Faso Rural Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion


The Weather

  • Decorated mud huts with thatched roofs dot the landscape throughout rural Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso Small Round Huts
  • Children receive nutritious meals at Compassion centers. In some cases, because of their family’s poverty, it is the only consistent meal children receive each week. Burkina Faso Girls With Bowls of Food
  • Compassion children know they are blessed. They feel relief because, though there are many challenges to face, they now have emotional, spiritual, physical and financial support. Burkina Faso Smiling Girls Closeup
  • Hygiene training is an important component of Compassion’s curriculum. Children typically share what they’ve learned with their parents and siblings. Burkina Faso Children Waiting in Line to Wash
  • Partnership Facilitator Kafo Inoussa Bene travels often to reach the Compassion centers he oversees. Bad roads and long distances makes motorcycle travel the most practical. Burkina Faso Partnership Facilitator on a Motorcycle
  • Children love to receive letters from their sponsors, and writing responses to them is a regular activity at Compassion centers. Burkina Faso Child with Sponsor Photo

Overview: Rural Burkina Faso

For the people who live in rural Burkina Faso the only thing that is abundant is uncertainty. Droughts and floods can wipe out meager crops in a day. A trek to the well can turn up a bucket of dust. Makeshift settlements of straw huts and tethered livestock can vanish in day as families routinely move to search for the next patch of land that promises access to food and water.

Such is the life of the rural Burkinabe who account for 90 percent of this West African nation of 17.2 million people. Burkina Faso is home to more than 50 ethnic groups, each with its own social and cultural distinctions, yet living in relative harmony.

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. With few natural resources the Burkinabe are forced to travel to neighboring countries for seasonal agricultural work and to labor in mines and plantations. One out of every five children dies before turning 5, often from a preventable disease like measles or malaria.

Rural girls are especially vulnerable. Girls who leave villages to try to find work in the city are routinely plucked off the streets by traveling gangs and subjected to a life of grueling labor and sexual abuse.

Although Burkina Faso has begun to make some socioeconomic progress, the situation among women and children has yet to show substantial improvement. Recently the country has been forced to cope with a major locust infestation; outbreaks of meningitis, yellow fever and cholera; civil conflict in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire; and falling export prices and surging fuel costs.

The prevalence of HIV and AIDS is a growing concern here. Adolescents are severely affected, with more than 50 percent of HIV infections stemming from this age group. Nearly 20,000 children under age 14 are living with HIV or AIDS, while another 120,000 have been orphaned by AIDS.


Culture Corner

Burkina Faso Culture


A traditional Burkinabe pastry of fried flour and dried pineapples.


  • 2¼ cups self-rising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup diced, dried pineapple
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk


Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the mixture then rub with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.

Add the sugar and pineapple and then stir in the beaten eggs.

Mix to a stiff dough and add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff.

Tip onto a floured surface and knead lightly before rolling out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut the dough into ½-inch rounds, then fry on a lightly greased griddle over low heat until cakes are lightly browned on both sides.

Cool on a wire rack and serve sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar.


Life in Rural Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in Western Africa, has a tropical climate with warm, dry winters and hot, rainy summers. Its three primary rivers are the Nazinon, the Nakambé and the Mouhoun.

The country is home to 60 different ethnic groups, each with its own variety of music, including the balafon (xylophone) and the djembé (drum), and storytelling (or oral history), which is the basis for Burkinabé literature. Sports are very popular, with soccer, handball, cycling, basketball and boxing among the most common.

Unemployment is a problem in Burkina Faso, and many migrate to other regions to try and find work. Education is another obstacle. According to UNICEF, only 81 percent of students reach the fifth grade, which means illiteracy rates are high. School fees are very expensive, and many families cannot afford their children’s education.

Children at Home

A typical rural house is made of mud, dome-shaped at the base and roofed with straw that comes to a pyramidal tip. In rural Burkina Faso, up to 10 people typically live under the same roof. A number of related households may live together in a compound. Old age and experience are highly regarded; generally the head and authority of the compound is a family elder.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Burkina Faso

Rural Burkina Faso is characterized by a lack of basic services like health centers, schools, water and electricity. There is no easy access to drinkable water. The farther people live from urban areas, the tougher it is to find water.

Chronic malnutrition is a pervasive concern for children. Rural families, who often cannot travel to urban medical centers, suffer the worst near the end of the growing season while waiting for harvest.

Local Needs and Challenges

Drought is a serious problem devastating much of the country’s crops, and many Compassion-assisted centers throughout Burkina Faso report cases of malnutrition among children. Education is another need, especially in rural areas where girls often quit school to care for the family home. When parents can afford to send their children to school, many students must walk long distances to get there. Housing is typically inadequate. Child trafficking is common in border towns. Malaria and meningitis are continual health threats.


Schools and Education Education in Burkina Faso

Education services are scarce and insufficient in rural Burkina Faso. Only about one-third of Burkina Faso’s children are enrolled in elementary school and those are primarily in urban areas.

Some tribal practices bar children, particularly girls, from school. Girls under 15 are frequently forced into early marriage and out of the school system. Pervasive poverty also dictates that children work, sometimes laboring in mines, rather than attend school.

Compassion Burkina Faso works to ensure that every registered child is able to attend elementary school, and it provides additional support, including tutoring, at the child development centers.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Child development centers provide registered children with a place to learn, grow and study. Children whose families have never been able to offer them clean water, health care or an education now have access to these necessities. Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.


Working Through the Local Church

The local church, as a spiritual and social institution, is Compassion’s most crucial partner in each community. More and more churches in Burkina Faso are working with Compassion to nurture and protect children. Such partnerships are vital in implementing Compassion’s holistic, age-appropriate curriculum, which focuses on children’s spiritual, intellectual, socio-emotional and physical development. While young children might be learning about their five senses, teens are learning about leadership or how to have successful relationships. Compassion and the church are also instrumental in providing extracurricular activities for children, such as community service opportunities, music classes, gardening, and tutoring. These activities, and many others, create a sense of unity among children, even among different age groups.

How Compassion Works in Burkina Faso Compassion in Burkina Faso

Compassion’s work in Burkina Faso began in the summer of 2004. Currently, more than 42,000 children participate in 172 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches and denominations to help them provide Burkinabé children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all that God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

The Partnership Facilitator (PF) is the key link between Compassion and the local church, and the first person people contact if there is a problem. The PF shares Compassion’s vision with church partners and oversees its implementation at centers. Kafo Inoussa Bene, a PF in charge of 15 centers in Burkina Faso, joined Compassion in May 2008. “There are many challenges, including having enough classrooms,” he says. “Fortunately, Compassion has the Complementary Interventions fund, so I can encourage partners to write for monetary assistance for special projects.” Kafo, who is passionate about children and Compassion’s mission, strives to ensure a respectful and trusting relationship between churches and families so that all benefit.


Prayer Requests

  • Rural children are victims of trafficking. Please pray that this practice is eliminated.
  • Pray for abundance of harvests so that parents might have more income. Parents' and children's lives depend on it.
  • Rural schools lack of equipment and teachers. Please pray that the government might provide more resources.